Story #90. The Man Who Lost His Family in an Instant

May 12, 2023
The story of Mykhailo Yatsenyuk from Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, who lost seven members of his family in an instant. #UkraineWorldTestimony
Photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/

The Russians occupied Izium from April 2022 until the town was liberated by Ukrainian troops during a counter-offensive in September.

UkraineWorld spoke to local resident Mykhailo Yatsenyuk, who lost seven members of his family as a result of the Russian air strike: three grandchildren, his daughter and her husband, his wife, and his mother-in-law.

The bombing of Izyum began in early March, Mykhailo recalls. At first, the Russians shelled the town with howitzers and rockets. The windows in their house were blown out, but the building itself was still standing.

On March 5, Mykhailo's son came to visit him and proposed that his sister Olya and her children go with him to Cherkasy (where he still lives). However, after consulting with her husband, Olya decided to stay in Izyum for a while longer

On March 6-7, the Russian bombing became more intense, so Mykhailo and his family went down to the basement of their house. There they waited out the danger, as there was still light and they could cook. When the bombing subsided, the family went outside.

On the morning of 9 March, the family sat down to breakfast as usual. Mykhailo and his wife Natalia made some porridge. When Mykhailo's granddaughter Arina asked him to make tea, he came out of the basement and started climbing a metal ladder to his apartment on the second floor. At that moment, the Russians dropped a bomb on the 5-story building where the family lived.

At the moment of the explosion, Mykhailo was thrown down the stairs and lost consciousness.

When he regained consciousness, he started screaming and calling for his family. No one answered.

Only his neighbor Halyna called for help from the basement, as her arm was pinned down by concrete slabs. But Mykhailo couldn't help her because his own legs were pinned down with brick blocks.

Very slowly and carefully, about eight hours after the explosion, Mykhailo managed to crawl out from under the bricks. Fortunately, his legs were not broken.

Rescuers were able to reach the destroyed building only on 1 April, three weeks after the air strike. A total of 54 people were killed in the building, most of whom were in the basement at the moment of the attack.

Halyna, whose arm was pinned by the slab, died five days after the air strike. Although her neighbors freed her arm, they were unable to get her out of the basement. The hole which served as the only way to get out was too narrow. During these five days, another neighbor, Serhiy, brought her food and water, but she still couldn't survive without proper treatment.

Only ten people in the building managed to escape that day. Mykhailo was among them. His three grandchildren were 3, 10, and 14 years old. Mykhailo was able to bury his family on April 13.

Olha Tatokhina
Analyst and Journalist at UkraineWorld